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Straight Talk About U.S. Arms Inspections in Iraq
A Speech By Scott Ritter
Saugerties, NY January 31, 2003
The following is a transcript of a talk given on January 31, 2003 in Saugerties, NY, by Scott Ritter, followed by a transcript of his comments on TV regarding Colin Powell's UN speech. It is important to read carefully and think about what is being said, and who is saying it. This is source material, not just the usual media analysis of press releases. These statements are detailed and accurate.
Part One: Lecture: Straight Talk About U.S. Arms Inspections in Iraq
Powell's subsequent presentation at the UN was persuasive, however Scott Ritter, undoubtedly one of the top experts in the field of Iraqi weapons inspection, has since stated that Powell was lying, and is ready to debate the issue any time anywhere. It comes down to this; who is telling the truth? You decide!
About Scott Ritter:
Scott Ritter has been on the front line in the ongoing battle against arms proliferation. A former major in the U.S. Marines, a veteran of the Gulf War and a ballistics missiles technology expert, he was the Chief U.N. Arms Inspector from 1991 to 1998. He took part in over thirty inspection missions in Iraq. His experience in enemy territory served as a basis for his book End Game, which explores the shortcomings of America's foreign policy in the Persian Gulf region and alternative approaches for handling the Iraq crisis.
In the year 2000, he went back to Iraq to film his documentary "Shifting Sands." Currently he is traveling the globe trying to stop a U.S. attack on Iraq.
It is certainly an honor and a pleasure to be here tonight to have the opportunity to talk with you about an issue on which I think we will all be in agreement. Regardless of where you stand on this issue of war with Iraq-whether you support the President or whether you question the President, it is a serious issue. This is not something that should be taken lightly. I think we can be in common agreement that what we face in the weeks and months to come is a defining moment in American history.
How we behave visa vis Iraq, how we interact with the UN Security Council, how we interact with the global community, how we behave as a people, for decades to come, will be defined by what we as a nation do in the coming weeks and months.
It is imperative, therefore, that we take pause from this mad rush towards war, to step back and engage in facing democracy, to engage in debate, dialogue, discussion. That's what I hope to achieve tonight. Let's have a debate, let's have a dialogue, let's have a discussion about Iraq. Because after all, we are a democracy.
A democracy cannot function unless the people get involved. Let's remember what we're talking about when we say "The United States of America," we are speaking of a nation that embodies values, that embodies a vision that is set forth in a document called the Constitution of the United States of America.
Now I stand before you as someone who is not a pacifist. I believe in fact that if we set out our various political beliefs I would be in opposition to most of the people in this room. But that's what makes this an interesting evening. That people who disagree can get together and discuss issues. I am not a pacifist, I come from a warrior background. And I know what it means to put on the uniform of the United States of America and serve my country. I wore the uniform of the United States Marine Corps for twelve years, and I wore that uniform proudly, and I served my country proudly, and I continue to serve my country proudly.
When I put on that uniform, I took an oath, to uphold and defend the Constitution of the Unjted States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Note, I did not take an oath to the President of the United States! I did not take an oath to the White House! I did not take an oath to Congress. I did not take an oath to a building or an object. I took an oath to a piece of paper, a document that defines who we the people of the United States of America are. It is the government of the people, by the people, for the people. WE are the government. WE the people of the United States of America are responsible for what happens in our name. We must insure that the basic principle of accountability is in play. What this means is, those who we elect to represent us in higher office, must be accountable for what they do in our name. We cannot simply sit back and allow people to dictate to us a course of action. That is not democracy, that is a dictatorship. That is not America.
We the people must get involved. A debate, a dialogue, a discussion, a democracy doesn't function unless the people are involved, and ladies and gentlemen, a democracy does not function well unless those who are involved are empowered with knowledge and information about the discussion.
When we come to talking about Iraq, and specifically the potential for war with Iraq, we don't have this debate, we don't have this discussion, we are not having this dialogue. In fact, we are told that to question the President's policies on Iraq is somehow unpatriotic, un-American. Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot think of a more unpatriotic, un-American thing to do than NOT question the President's policies, repeatedly!
Being critical of a policy is not being negative regarding that policy. It means you are asking questions, critical questions, and demanding detailed answers, so that your concerns are taken into account by those who represent you. We cannot go to war simply standing back and nodding yes to everything the President says.
Teddy Roosevelt said something to the effect that to say "yes" to everything the President says and does is the most un-American thing you can do, and that it borders on treason; that an American, especially in war time, must question everything the President says and does. It's the most American thing you can do! It's time we exercised our patriotism, true patriotism by invoking Democracy by getting involved as a people, and demanding answers. That is our responsibility, and not only to ourselves. It is our responsibility to our men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America.
All too often I think we the people treat them as some sort of separate entity. We don't see them as flesh and blood, but as professional warriors who have volunteered. That's the language we use for Roman Centurions and Imperial power. We are not Imperial Rome, we are the United States of America, and those men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America wear OUR uniform, your uniform. They belong to you, that uniform is yours, they serve you. They are prepared to give their lives in defense of you. What are you prepared to do for them?
We have an obligation as Americans to insure that we the people of the United States of America exhaust every means possible short of war before going to war. Because war is not a solution, war is nothing but death and destruction. We need to think about that.
Sometimes you have to defend yourself. If there's a threat out there, threatening you, threatening my family, threatening any American, then I will step forward and I will give my life to protect you from that threat. And today we have over a million Americans who wear our uniform who are prepared to die to do just that. But let's make sure before we ask them to make that sacrifice in our name, that it is a cause worthy of the sacrifice.
Ladies and gentlemen, I don't believe that Iraq today represents such a cause. I know who Saddam Hussein is and I stand before you as one who knows the nature of his regime all too well, a brutal, tyrannical dictator, who has committed horrific crimes against his own people and who has broken international law over and over again. No, I'm not here to be an apologist for that dictator. But you know, I love my Marines, more than I hate Saddam Hussein!
Although I certainly hope that the people of Iraq will someday have a better future, that future will not be built on a foundation of American blood. That is something that I will not stand idly by and let occur.
Is Iraq a threat to the United States worthy of war? It's a fundamental question. Let's give the President a break; let's talk about the case for war. The President of the United States has said that Iraq maintains weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, and long range ballistic missiles, the presence of which not only present a danger to the United States, but because Iraq is also a state sponsor of terror, because Iraq has clear links with Al Qaida and Osama Bin Laden and the forces of terror that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, Iraq poses a clear and present risk that must be responded to by military force, that this is a cause worthy of the sacrifice of American lives.
That is his case. I have to tell you, on face value, if everything he says is true and accurate, that's a compelling case. If Iraq is out there with weapons of mass destruction more than ten years after the international community has banned these weapons, I think we need to presume ill intent on the part of Iraq. And if Iraq isn't capable because of economic sanctions of reaching out and striking us themselves, but they possess these weapons, I think we should be concerned that they have common cause with the forces of international terror who have attacked the United States. There should be concern that they would provide these weapons to the forces of international terror, and who would strike the United States, making what happened on September 11 pale in comparison.
The problem is, if we start parsing out the President's words, we find out there's a lot of rhetoric, and very little substance.
I stand before you as someone who spent seven years in Iraq as a weapons inspector, going after these weapons. And let me tell you, Iraq had them! Iraq had massive quantities of chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, and long-range ballistic missiles. They existed. Inspectors went in, and although Iraq did not give us full cooperation, and though the process was not perfect, I stand before you to tell you that it is documented fact that by 1996, 90% to 95% of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability was eliminated, including 100% of the factories used by Iraq to produce these weapons.
People can say, "That missing 5% or 10% should be a concern." Well, of course it is a concern, but notice what I'm saying. It's missing, it's unaccounted for, we have no information that says Iraq actually retains this material. We simply cannot account for it. We can mitigate against the concern of the unaccounted-for 5% to 10% by reminding ourselves that from 1994 to 1998, weapons inspectors, which I was a part of, undertook the most intrusive on-site monitoring inspection regime in the history of arms control. We had remote cameras, remote sensors, no-notice inspections, going through the totality of Iraq's industrial infrastructure, and never once did these inspections find evidence of retained prohibitive capability or reconstitution of prohibitive capability.
So ladies and gentlemen, it is safe to say that by 1998, Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed. These are not simply my words, these are the words of Walt Bacaius (?) the Swedish diplomat who ran the inspection program in Iraq from 1991 to 1997. Fundamentally disarmed; this means that Iraq no longer maintains the means to produce viable quantities of weapons of mass destruction.
Yes, of course Iraq is a modern industrial state, and yes, of course you can posit any scenario in which Iraq might be able to produce laboratory quantities of material in a small room in a back area. But weapons of mass destruction that threaten nations, that are viable, are not produced in a basement, or in a cave, they are produced in modern industrial facilities. And as long as weapons inspectors were in Iraq doing their job, there was no way Iraq was producing weapons of mass destruction. You will not find a single United Nations document that states that "since 1995 Iraq is known to possess weapons of mass destruction." In fact if you go through the United Nations documentation, what you will see is that the United Nations did a tremendous job of destroying Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. There is much unaccounted for of concern. But it's just that-an accounting problem. It doesn't mean that Iraq maintains this capability.
So therefore, if we are focused on mitigating the potential threat posed by Iraq, we shouldn't be talking about going to war, we should be talking about supporting the continued work of weapons inspectors.
For weapons inspections to continue effectively, there are a couple of things that have to occur; one: Iraq must obey the law. Iraq must fully cooperate with the inspectors. You will never have a completely successful inspection regime, if Iraq is allowed to cheat, obstruct, confront, deceive, conceal. That cannot happen. Iraq must be held accountable under the law. When I was inspector, sadly, Iraq got away with deceiving us, with cheating and obstructing. That made our job very difficult. I spent more than sixty per cent of my effort as a weapons inspector in Iraq, overcoming Iraqi obstruction. Sixty percent. My team was focused on things other than finding weapons of mass destruction. We were focused on forced protection, we were focused on collecting intelligence information, we focused on potential hostage rescue scenarios. We were focused on a lot of things that had nothing to do with disarmament, because Iraq was obstructing.
Today, inspectors in Iraq are getting complete access to every site that has been designated for inspection, with no obstruction, no interference, immediate access. Inspectors don't have to expend all this energy on overcoming obstruction. They get to focus one hundred percent of their effort getting to the site and doing their job. It's a much more efficient operation today than when I was an inspector. That's a good thing.
Number one: for inspections to work, Iraq must fully cooperate.
Two: The Security Council must willing to enforce its law. If the Security Council passes a law saying Iraq must be disarmed, and then sits back and lets Iraq violate the law, it does nothing, the law is meaningless. The Security Council must be willing to put muscle behind the law. Iraq must know that if it fails to cooperate, there will be a price to pay. And that price must be exacted upon the one man in Iraq who has control, Saddam Hussein. There must be severe pressure focused on Saddam Hussein. The only thing that will make Saddam Hussein wake up is the potential of his head being lopped off and rolling down the highway. There has to be pressure that can potentially terminate Saddam's existence.
Now, when I was an inspector, many times were at these sites and we were staring down the barrel of an automatic weapon, and the Security Council did nothing. It wasn't Saddam Hussein's head that was potentially rolling down a hallway, it my head potentially decorating a wall somewhere in Baghdad. This is not the way the system is supposed to work.
Today, the Security Council has made it clear in Resolution 1441, that if Iraq does not comply with the law and its obligation to disarm, there will be serious consequences, and we all know what that means, a war with Iraq that will terminate Saddam's existence. And that's one of the reason why we have gotten such good cooperation.
That's all fine and dandy. You say, well all these things are in place, therefore, inspections should work. But there is a third aspect. You see, it is not just about holding Iraq accountable to the rule of law, it is about insuring that those who implement the rule of law likewise operate within the framework of law. That means, as weapons inspectors focused on your mandated task of disarmament. The weapons inspectors work with the Security Council. The Security Council consists of fifteen members, five of which are permanent. The most powerful permanent member of the Security Council is the United States of America. Ladies and gentlemen, I will remind you that the United States of America voted for the Security Council Resolution 1441 requiring Iraq to disarm. The will of the international community is for Iraq to disarm. And yet it has been American policy since 1991 to achieve regime removal in Iraq, to eliminate Saddam Hussein, and this unilateral policy of regime removal has taken priority over disarmament. Roughly translated, this means that the United States of America is more interested in getting rid of Saddam Hussein then they are in getting rid of Saddam Hussein's weapons. That they view the weapons inspection process as useful only as far as it facilitates regime removal.
Meaning that the weapons inspectors go after information pertaining to the security of Saddam Hussein, not information pertaining to weapons of mass destruction. When weapons inspectors violate their responsibilities as international civil servants by allowing themselves to be used in this fashion, the integrity of the process is polluted. The American policy of regime removal pollutes the integrity of the United Nations process of disarmament plain and simple.
The American policy continues to be that of regime removal. We must keep that in mind when we start talking about Iraq and what the Bush administration says about Iraq. The Bush administration says that Iraq poses a threat to the United State of America, and yet I stand here to tell you that Iraq does not pose a threat to the United States of America, that that is simply a ploy on the part of the Bush Administration to create a cover for their true policy objective which is eliminating Saddam Hussein from power, removing that brutal dictator from power. Although it might be a nice thing to have Saddam Hussein removed from power it is not a cause worthy of the sacrifice of American life. The only thing that would be worthy of that is if he had weapons of mass destruction. So we have to ask ourselves, when the President says he knows Iraq has chemical weapons, he knows that Iraq has biological weapons, he knows that Iraq is pushing forward on a nuclear weapons program, we as Americans must say "excuse me, Mr. President, how do you know this? Could you please share the information with us?"
If you went to a doctor and sat down with the doctor, and he said, "Excuse me, I have some bad news for you. You've got a brain tumor. A big brain tumor in the middle of your head, and its going to kill you, unless we lop off the top of your head, and carve that brain tumor out, and sew it back up!" That's serious surgery. And we'd say "Excuse me, doctor…." And he says, "Lie down, lie down, right now, we've got to do the surgery."
We say, "Who, doctor, that's pretty serious stuff. Can I see the X-ray, can I see the MRI?" And the doctor says, "Nahh, just TRUST me on this one!" You'd be concerned about that! And that is what the President of the United States is trying to do right now. He says that Iraq is a cancerous growth, a brain tumor, and it needs to be excised by a radical surgery called warfare. And he wants us to go to war, but he's not willing to provide us with the X-ray or the MRI to substantiate his diagnosis. He says Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but I'm telling you right now that as of 1998, these weapons didn't exist.
So if Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, it is based upon a reconstituted manufacturing base that came into being after 1998, and before the return of weapons inspectors in 2002. Now we didn't have weapons inspectors in Iraq, maybe the President's claim might be more convincing. But you know, think back to the fall of 2002, and all the briefings that occurred, with the Pentagon, and the President came up, and they showed us photographs of sites in Iraq, and they said "We blew up these sites in 1998 and they are rebuilding them, and we are very concerned what is going on in these sites. We think this is where they are producing weapons of mass destruction." Well they spent a lot of time showing us those photographs in September and October of 2002, you don't see them talking about those sites today. Why? Because every single one of those sites have been visited by United Nations weapons inspectors, and they found that nothing is going on in those facilities. Nothing at all.
So the President doesn't talk about that. In September of 2002, the President talked about aluminum tubes, which Iraq was procuring, and that this was proof positive that Iraq was moving rapidly towards a uranium enrichment program which could result in a nuclear weapon in a matter of months. And Condoleeza Rice had the audacity to stand before the American people and say, "We need to take action. We can't sit and wait for a smoking gun, because we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Today, with weapons inspectors in Iraq, those aluminum tubes turned out to be exactly what I said they were in 2002, conventional artillery rockets. That's it. That's what they were used for when I was inspector, and that's what they are used for today. And we know that. And the nuclear inspectors have come out and said that, if you listen to the report of Mohammed Al Baradai, to the Security Council on Monday, he said that. And yet the President stood before the American people in the state of the Union address, and stated that these aluminum tubes are used for nuclear enrichment. He's lying to you, plain and simple. There's no other way to parse it out.
The President stared the British Ambassador in the face during the State of the Union address, and said, "Our good ally, Great Britain, has information that says that Iraq is out acquiring uranium from African sources, and yet the United Nations has investigated this story and it is baseless. There is no information to substantiate that. So what nuclear program, Mr. President? What nuclear program?
The President stood before the American people in the State of the Union address and talked about an Iraqi biological threat and poured out the words of Hans Blix, the United Nations inspector who spoke before the UN Security Council on Monday. Well, Hans Blix didn't lie to the American people or the Security Council, but he wasn't honest with them either.
Hans Blix honestly said that we concerns about accounting for our anthrax program, that we cannot account for all the growth media, foods used to grow this anthrax, and that because we can't account for it, Iraq has the potential of having produced thousands of liters of anthrax that we don't know the disposition of! True, Mr. Blix, but now tell the rest of the story. The rest of the story is, Iraq only produced liquid bulk anthrax. Bulk anthrax has a shelf life of three years. After three years it germinates and becomes useless sludge. Why didn't you say that, Mr. Blix? Why didn't you say that the growth media that we can't account for was matured by Iraq in the late 1980s, and it had a shelf life of five years? Why didn't you tell the world that the place where Iraq produced anthrax is the Al Haqqa state establishment, and that it was blown off the face of the earth in 1996?
So do your math, Mr. Blix. How can Iraq have an anthrax program today, unless Iraq has rebuilt an anthrax manufacturing base, and no one has provided any information to substantiate that allegation. Hans Blix stood there and talked about a so-called Air Force document that shows that there is a six thousand munitions shortfall in the Iraqi accounting. Based on munitions (?) during the Iran-Iraq war. He said we can no longer account for these six thousand munitions, we have to assume that the chemical agent that was contained in those munitions is still there and available to the Iraqis. That's okay if you're doing straight math, but now let's throw in science. So Mr. Blix, why didn't you report the reports that were written by your own chemical experts? Your own chemical experts prepared reports that said "Given the poor quality of Iraq's chemical weapons, and their chemical agent that was produced 1983 to 1988, any chemical weapon produced during that time is no longer viable, and we should not be concerned about it." Wouldn't that have been a nice thing to put on your report.
The bottom line is, that every piece of information out there that says we should be concerned about unaccounted-for materiel, there is a counter that says, "Yes we are concerned, but we can mitigate against it being a clear and present threat today."
I am not here to say "Give Iraq a clean bill of health." I'm not here to say, "Give Iraq the benefit of the doubt." No, Iraq to me too many times for me to give them the benefit of the doubt. They're going to have to earn the trust and confidence of the international community before we accept them as being disarmed. But the process of disarmament is best done by putting the boots of inspectors on the ground, not the boots of the United States Marines.
When I resigned as weapons inspector in 1998, I stood before the United States Senate, and I accurately stated, "Once you withdraw inspectors from Iraq, Iraq has enough dual-purpose capacity that they could reconstitute significant aspects of their chemical, biological weapons capability within a period of six months." Ladies and gentlemen, inspectors have been gone for about four years. So we must be very concerned, very concerned about what Iraq could have produced, that is why we should not be in a rush to judgment. These things take time. It takes a lot of time.
Mohammed Al Barrada, said that in the case of South Africa, which fully cooperated with the international community in regards to accounting in the nuclear program it took two years. Inspectors have been back in Iraq for two months. Why are we rushing this? Why aren't we giving them the time they need? They will need a minimum of sixth months and more likely one year, just to do the basic work that has to be done to assure the international community that Iraq is disarmed.
And yet in these two months, they have been able to put out a finding, that they cannot find any evidence of weapons of mass destruction. If you listen to the words of Donald Rumsfeld, obviously, that doesn't mean too much. This is a man who says that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. He says that the fact that weapons inspectors haven't found any weapons in Iraq is the clearest evidence that there are weapons. There's no way you can overcome that logic, except by standing up and saying, "Excuse me, Mr. Secretary. You work for me, and I need substance. I need facts, I demand substantial facts before we support sending American troops overseas."
That is the bottom line. What is a cause worthy of war? War is a horrible thing. And I think that unless you have served in the military in combat, you don't know what war is. We need to frame this discussion today within the reality of what war is. It is about killing. It is about taking human life.
You want to go to war? Well I have a task for you. Go home tonight, get a piece of paper. Start that paper the way that every officer in the Marine Corp, in the Army, everyone that serves in the military has to be prepared to write.
Write down, "Dear Mr. And Mrs. Smith," I regret to inform you that your son, Lance Corporal Joe Smith, is dead." Now finish that letter, and it better be a damn good letter, because that is a letter that a family is going to have to sit there and read on Thanksgiving to explain an empty seat around the table. That's a letter that families have to read at Christmas time, to point at an empty stocking and say, "This justifies that loss." That's the letter they're going to read on birthdays that won't be celebrated. That's the letter they're going to read when they want grandchildren to run around that aren't going to be there, because Lance Corporal Smith is dead.
If you want to go to war with Iraq, write that letter. You better make sure you have just cause for that sacrifice, not just for one Lance Corporal, but thousands of Lance Corporals. And then explain to the people of Iraq, why we're going to war to liberate their country when doing so we're going to kill tens of thousands of them. Ladies and gentlemen, write that letter, write that letter. And if you can finish it, and it's a good letter, and it give salve to the wound, you can stand up and say, "Yes I support a war with Iraq."
But if you can't finish that letter, than don't you think we have an obligation to step back and say, "Time out, Mr. President. Let's not rush the war. There is no need to rush the war. Iraq is contained. Saddam Hussein is not a present risk to the United States of America."
There is an enemy out there that we all seem to have forgotten. This guy named… Osama Bin Laden, and his organization called Al Qaida, a group that actually did attack us on September 11th, and killed nearly 3,000 Americans in the span of one hundred minutes.
If we do go to war with Iraq without justification, without the support of the international community, we might as well put up a poster that says, "Join Al Qaida!"
If we go to war with Iraq, we will not win the war on terror, we will lose the war on terror. It will be the most effective recruitment method we could use. To lose the war on terror does not mean that Al Qaida's flag will be raised over the White House. Losing the war on terror means, that when I put my children on a school bus in the morning, and that bus goes down the street, there's a chance that it may vaporize in an explosion. That when I go to the shopping mall with my family, there might be a bomb that blows us and everyone else up, that we will live a life of fear, because people have been conditioned to hate us and strike out against us, and terminate our lives with the same vengeance that we seem to be willing to want to terminate their life. That's losing the war on terror.
When the United States of America moves to capitalize on the fear and ignorance of the American people to put pressure on them to maintain their silence.; that's losing the war on terror. Losing the war on terror is letting the United States Government infringe on the individual civil liberties, which define us as a people. Losing the war on terror is having the international community, when confronted with the question, "Who is the greatest threat to international peace and security, respond, "The United States of America!" That is losing the war on terror. We don't want to lose the war on terror. We want to win the war on terror.
To win the war on terror, we are going to have to reacquaint ourselves with who we are as Americans. In order to do that, I have a challenge for you. Look yourself in the mirror and say, "Am I a good citizen? Or am I a good consumer?"
A lot of people, if they answered honestly, would say, "We are good consumers. We wrap ourselves in a cocoon of comfort. As long as the government maintains this level of comfort, we just waddle along in any direction we get pushed." That is not being American. An American is someone who breaks free of the cocoon of comfort and says, "I am a citizen. I am investing myself into my country, my community, into the people of the United States of America, to win the war on terror." To win the war against all tyranny, we have to first win the war at home and become good citizens.
That's why I'm thrilled to death that everyone came out here tonight to participate in this concept of democracy; debate, dialogue, and discussion. Thank you. (Standing ovation, cheers and applause)
Part Two, Q and A from January 31st speech, Scott Ritter, Saugerties, NY
Q,What can we as citizens do to help prevent this impending war?
A. Gosh. If I could answer that question, I should run for President. (applause) But let's be honest. What you have here before you is a simple Marine, who was a weapons inspector, but I'm not a social scientist, I am not a political scientist, I'm not someone who has my finger on the pulse of American activism. This activism thing is new to me.
What I have to say is this. What we have to recognize is that we are a democracy, and that we have to take seriously the concept of the government of the people, by the people and for the people. If you parse out this concept of war with Iraq, I think a good case could be made that we are not going to war with Iraq because of their weapons of mass destruction, or because Iraq poses a clear and present threat to national security. We are gong to war with Iraq because President Bush has painted himself into a corner with his own rhetoric. He has invested so much political capitol into the concept of regime removal that he now has no choice but to move forward with regime removal even if we can't make the case based on a threat. This is about domestic American politics. This war will be stopped in Washington, D.C., when President Bush realizes that he will lose more politically by going to war than he does by not going to war.
Q. Why are we more concerned with weapons in Iraq than in North Korea?
A. That's a darn good question. If you think about it, we're supposed to be going to war against Iraq because of the threat it poses to international peace and security, in the form of weapons of mass destruction. And yet Iraq says, "We don't have any weapons, but you can send inspectors in and they can go anywhere they want to, to go look for them, and we will cooperate with you on that." And yet we're going to go to war.
Korea, on the other hand says, "We HAVE nuclear weapons! You CAN'T send inspectors. And we're going to keep BUILDING them!" And yet we're dealing with Korea "diplomatically." So that tells you this war with Iraq is not about the threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, its about something different. Although I encourage everyone to read the Constitution, there's another document I think everyone here should read, which the National Security Strategy document promulgated by the Bush administration last fall. This document is a very concerning document. It says America is going to undertake a policy of unilateralism, where America alone unilaterally defines problems around the world, and it alone unilaterally determines solutions. It says The United States will use its overwhelming economic and military strength to maintain American dominance, maintain American supremacy. It basically speaks of American Imperialism. And I don't know about you, but when I study American history, I recognize that we fought a revolution over 220 years ago, to free ourselves from an Imperial power, and yet that seems to be the path we're taking today, the path of Imperialism, and Iraq represents a case study of implementation of this policy of unilateralism, of American Imperial power. Iraq is actually the softest target out there, the one that poses the least threat, the easiest target. Once the President implements this policy it will be difficult to stop it. That's why he's picked Iraq, and that's why we're not picking on a hard target like North Korea.
Q. You have said you're not necessarily against war. It seems that weapons are more destructive than before. They don't just kill on the spot but continue to cause damage. Do you dread that movement? Are there effects of this that the world should be concerned about?
A. I need to say right up front that I was a weapons inspector and depleted uranium was outside of my mandate, so I don't have the level of expertise as a definitive source in regards to depleted uranium. But I'll answer it as a concerned private citizen. And also as a warrior, and I got to tell you, when you go to war, its about killing. That's all it is. If I take marines into combat, my responsibility is to accomplish my mission, bring my marines home alive. That means any enemy that is in front of me, I show no mercy. I terminate their life, immediately, violently, because that's what war's about. The Marine Corp is the most efficient killing machine known to mankind in the history of mankind. Do you want to see a weapon of mass destruction? A Marine Corp rifle company with an unlimited supply of ammunition; that's a weapon of mass destruction. We are the dogs of war, we are the Hell-Hounds. When we get unleashed, Hell will follow. That's why you never want to unleash us, unless you absolutely have to.
Now if it comes down to a T 17-tank with reactive armor plating, I'm going to kill that thing, with the best munitions capable and that is a uranium round, fired either from my own tank, from an artillery shell, or from an aircraft, that will terminate the life of the enemy inside that tank. But you know what? We have to be responsible for our actions. Cause once the war's over, and we've killed the enemy, that depleted uranium is poisoning the earth, not only poising the earth, but poisoning my fellow marines, my fellow Americans, the heroes that put on a uniform to defend our country, are going to be poisoned by that. Its not just the macho men that have to deal with this stuff. That stuff goes through their testicles. They go home and have babies and it's the babies who suffer the consequences, with their deformities, and their health problems. Depleted uranium stays with us forever, it's a forever problem. And its not just Americans who suffer, but in the case of Iraq, we're talking about the Iraqi civilians.
If we're going to justify the use of depleted uranium in combat to save American lives, then we have to take moral responsibility for what happens after the war, to the lives of all those who are affected.
The first step will be to acknowledge that a problem exists. Now the world knows the problem of depleted uranium exists, but the United States refuses to acknowledge this. When it came time for the World Health Organization to fund a study in Iraq about the effects of depleted uranium, the United States stopped that study. We vetoed those funds being allocated. And this is wrong.
We have a moral responsibility as human beings, as Americans, to insure that things done in our name, are done responsibly. If we do go to war and use such things as depleted uranium, we have to go in afterwards and clean it up, and take care of the aftereffects. If we're not willing to do that then we shouldn't be using that weapon to begin with. And likewise, if that weapon is so bad, so horrific as it appears to be, we should be using that weapon. So, like the atomic bomb, I think we have all recognized that nuclear weapons aren't a solution. They kill people very efficiently, but we also recognize the horrible nature of nuclear weapons, and that is why we have until recently resolved not to use them first. It appears that is changing too.
Q. Is this war about oil?
A. If this war is about control of Iraqi oil, the following calculus should come into play, the business of making money. Oil is about making money. Iraqi industry produces 1.5 million barrels of oil a day. The Iraqi oil minister has let us know that a 50 billion dollar investment over five years would enable Iraq to up its oil production to 6 or 7 million barrels of oil a day. Just do the simple math, you're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, for anyone who gets involved in that kind of investment. Now we're talking about going to war with Iraq, a war which could result in the destruction of the Iraqi oil production infrastructure, a war that will cost the United States anywhere from 200 to 600 billion dollars up front, and maybe more down the road. You're going to need that $1000 check!
The fact is, this doesn't make any sense from an oil perspective. It doesn't make any sense to go in there and destroy Iraq if it s about oil. I think that this is about politics. I don't even think its about his father so much, although he does have that fixation on revenge. I think its more about domestic American politics. There were eight years of the Clinton presidency, where neo-conservatives were festering in think tanks across America. They were writing papers that challenged the concept of multi-lateralism.
In 1992, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney as Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz as a …. Tried to put forward a national security strategy. It was a strategy of unilateralism. It said with the fall of the Soviet Union, we need to leverage our overwhelming strength to insure that we dominate the globe. And it was rejected by George Herbert Walker Bush. It was "unthinkable!" "Un-American."
Then Clinton came in. Now you add eight years of a President who espoused multi-lateralism. Eight years of a President who was seen as weak because the United Nations was calling the shots, not the United States. The neo-conservatives sat in their think-tanks and they festered, and they wrote papers, they came up with documents.
Now, George W. Bush gets elected….or goes to the White House via some means or other….and surrounds himself with neo-conservative ideologues, who basically hi-jack the national security decision-making hierarchy of the United States, and now are trying to maintain their hold on power. How do they do that? They do that by exploiting the events of 9-11. The fear and ignorance of the American people, the idea of perpetual conflict, and they implement these new neo-conservative policies of uni-lateralism abroad, homeland security. It gives them a grip, a hold on power. That's what Iraq is, I think Iraq is part of this concept of maintaining the perception of perpetual conflict. Sadly, when I talk about American democracy, think about it, it is a good chance that if we the people of the United States of America don't stand up and take control of our government, then 9-11 could well become to American democracy what the burning of the Reichstag did to German democracy, and I'd be loathe to witness that.
Q. What kind of coverage are you getting in the major media?
A. I've been all over CNN, I've been all over MSNBC, all over Fox.News. I'm out there getting the coverage. The problem is that every time I go on or someone like me goes on, they bring in balance, they bring in other talking heads, someone who has ambassador after their name. This is what it means to empower yourself with information. When you turn on TV you have Scott Ritter, and always the media, when he gets a chance to speak, they all say, "very controversial," this is a guy who is out there speaking alone, there's no one supporting him on this," and then they bring someone up who tows the party line.
To the average American, they don't know who's telling the truth, they don't know which side the facts are on. Its not that I'm not getting access, its just that the media is not doing a responsible job. The producers of these shows know what the facts are, and yet they are not putting it out. When I came back from Iraq in September, I went to CNN headquarters, and I was called before the editorial board, about sixty senior people, from the top on down, big wigs, etc., and they drilled me for forty-five minutes, non-stop questions. "How do you justify this statement?" "How do you justify that statement?"
And I answered every single question. When I finished, the head of CNN went, "We certify you as a credible source." Meaning that their people could use (my information). They said, "You got any questions?" I said, "Yeah, I got one!"
"You guys just ran me through the fire drill, and now you've certified me as a qualified source, and I appreciate that. But how come when the President of the United States…… (much laughter)…..gets up and says something, he doesn't have to go through the same drill? It's a double standard!"
Q. What about protecting intelligence sources?
A. As a former intelligence officer, I take the issue of protecting methods and sources VERY seriously. Just to give you an example of why we should take this seriously, in the fall of 2001 we were tracking down Osama Bin Laden, the United States had a very expensive satellite that was covering over Southwest Asia that was tinkered to intercept the satellite phone that Osama Bin Laden was known to use. One of the major newspapers wrote a story in which they mentioned this fact, and so Osama Bin Laden tossed his satellite phone. The U.S. lost the use of a multi-billion dollar satellite. That's why you have to be very careful about sources and methods.
The Constitution of the United States acknowledges this. It says that the President might be privy to information that should not be shared with the general public for fear of the common good. You don't want to put people at risk. That's why we're a democracy. The Congress has this thing called "oversight committees," The Senate Select Intelligence Committee, the House Intelligence Oversight Committee, comprised of representatives of the people, and it is encumbent therefore to the President to go to these oversight committees and share this intelligence, and I'm a little concerned when members of these committees come out and say he has not made a compelling case. If he can't make a compelling case behind closed doors, to members of the Congress, he's going to have a hard time making a compelling case to the American people.
The other concern I have is that we have classified relationships with a number of other nations around where we share just this kind of information. Why then are these nations not lined up to join us. If we have intelligence information that is of such clarity that makes the case, then why don't we have our allies lined up behind us?
It works two ways. On one hand, secrecy can be used to protect sources and methods of intelligence gathering. That is the good role of secrecy. The bad role of secrecy, especially in a democracy, is where the President of the United States hides behind a wall of secrecy as part of deceiving the American public, and that is what is happening in regards to Iraq. You are being deceived by the current administration in regards to a threat via Iraq.
They say they have a smoking gun, they say they have the intelligence information, and yet here we are on the verge of war, and they have yet to make that case.
Q. Why do we have a double standard with Israel?
A. Why are we focused on Iraq (instead of Israel)? First of all, let me state that the world is not fair. I wish it was. We cannot forget that Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. This is not something the world brought to Iraq, this is a problem that Iraq brought to itself, through its irresponsible actions. Iraq is a nation that has behaved irresponsibly. And you could say so has Israel. That may be the case. But the fact is there is a double standard here.
The fact is the UN Security Council passed a resolution under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, which means that the United Nations community can infringe on the sovereignty of Iraq by imposing conditions that Iraq has to abide by. If Iraq doesn't abide by them, it can be faced with sanctions and military action. That's Chapter 7. Chapter 7 requires a majority of the Security Council and no vetoes. There are five permanent members of the Security Council. Any one of them can veto a resolution.
The Security Council reflected the will of International Law and the International community, holding Iraq accountable for its actions. Israel, you will never get a Chapter 7 resolution because the United States of America will never vote for it. We will always veto it. So when you say that Israel violates Security Council resolutions, I say "it violates Chapter 6 resolutions. It doesn't violate Chapter 7 resolutions. It violates resolutions that are the equivalent of a speeding ticket, as opposed to resolutions that have real meat. Yes there is a double standard, and I think we have to acknowledge that. When we speak of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, we cannot speak of successful disarmament of Iraq unless we address weapons of mass destruction in the entire region.
We cannot disarm Iraq in a vacuum. Why did Iraq seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction? Maybe Iran has weapons of mass destruction. Maybe Israel has weapons of mass destruction. Maybe Syria has weapons of mass destruction. We have to deal with all of this. Its not just weapons of mass destruction, it is also conventional weapons. When the United States sells advanced F 16 Fighters to The United Arab Emirates, and they have a dispute over the islands in the Persian Gulf with Iran, what are we telling the Iranians? They will never get fighter aircraft the equivalent of those F 16 Fighter planes. So how do they respond? By building ballistic missiles, unconventional weapons.
So there is a conventional aspect to this too. We have to realize that by exporting munitions the way we do that is a destabilizing thing.
I've spent a lot of time interrogating Iraqi scientists when I was in Iraq. I've interrogated hundreds of them. I am here to tell you, I don't need to take them out of Iraq, I don't need to take them anywhere. Because a lie is a lie is a lie. When you tell me a lie in Baghdad, I'm going to know. If I do my job as investigator. If you tell me a lie in Cypress, I'm going to uncover it. It doesn't matter. I don't need to remove you. I just need to be professional and know what I'm doing. We have minders, but there's a lot of fiction out there. Fiction A: That an Iraqi said something, and disappeared. The scientists are still there. The scientists we interrogated in 1992 who told us stories, are still there today. They didn't disappear, they weren't executed.
One reason they want to take the scientists out of Iraq is to get them to defect. The biggest defector of all, who is always quoted by the Bush administration, is Hussein Kamal, the son-in-law. He left in August of 1995.
There's a transcript that was made available to CNN over a month ago. Surprisingly, they haven't chosen over a month ago. Surprisingly, they haven't chosen to share it with the American people. That transcript was made available to (Newsweek). Let's see if they choose to share it with the American people. Throughout his debriefing with the CIA and British Intelligence, and United Nations weapons inspectors, Hussein Kamal said over and over again, everything has been destroyed, nothing remains. When asked about the biological weapons, he said, "All have been destroyed. None remain." What about nuclear weapons? "All have been destroyed." And on and on and on.
That's the fact. Hussein Kamal didn't expose weapons of mass destruction, Hussein Kamal confirmed to weapons inspectors that we had accounted for almost everything. That's the reality of Hussein Kamal's defection. In fact there has not been a quality defector out of Iraq since 1992. The majority of the effective disarmament in Iraq has been done by weapons inspectors, based on their own work, not based on some defector coming out. We talked about taking scientists out of Iraq because we know they won't leave Iraq. Therefore we say, "You're not cooperating." We create the mythology that the only way we're going to get information about where Iraqi weapons are hidden is if Iraqi scientists come out. That's not true. The best way to get information about where the Iraqi weapons are hidden is to let the weapons inspectors do their job in Iraq. Inspections isn't interviewing scientists, it is doing the hard technical work of on-site inspections.
Ritter Discusses Powell Report,
February 6th, 2003
The following commentary by Scott Ritter to Kyoto News, provides an essential update to the Saugerties speech, and a rebuttal to Colin Powell's speech of February 5th at the UN regarding inspections violations.
Channel 4.com February 6, 2003
Ritter Dismisses Powell Report
TOKYO - Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter on Thursday dismissed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's allegation before the U.N. Security Council that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction as "unsubstantiated" and based only on "circumstantial evidence."
"There's nothing here that's conclusive proof that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction," Ritter, a former U.S. Marine and outspoken critic of Washington's policy on Iraq who participated in U.N. weapons inspections there from 1991 to 1998, told Kyodo News in an interview.
"Everything in here is circumstantial, everything in here mirrors the kind of allegations the U.S. has made in the past in regard to Iraq's weapons program," he said.
Powell on Wednesday presented what he described as "irrefutable and undeniable" evidence that Iraq has been deceiving U.N. arms inspectors and
hiding banned weapons. He played intercepted telephone conversations between
Iraqi officials and showed satellite photos as part of the U.S. drive to convince the world of the need to disarm Iraq, by military force if necessary.
"He just hits you, hits you, hits you with circumstantial evidence, and he confuses people - and he lied, he lied to people, he misled people," Ritter said of Powell.
Ritter argued that the United States is giving weapons inspectors too little time to do their job. He said many things in Powell's presentation should be properly investigated, such as a Nov 26 communications intercept in which two senior Iraqi military officers were overheard talking about the need to hide from U.N. weapons inspectors a "modified vehicle" made by an Iraqi company that Powell said is "well known to have been involved in prohibited weapons systems activity."
"What vehicle? I mean, obviously Colin Powell's concerned, he presented it, so let's find out what the vehicle is - but let's not bomb Iraq based upon that," Ritter said.
Ritter also questioned the veracity of Powell's allegation that Iraq still possesses vast amounts of anthrax and described as irrelevant his repeated references to dry powder anthrax contained in envelopes and sent through the U.S. postal system in the fall of 2001, which killed two people and created a national panic.
"What anthrax is he talking about?" he said, adding that Iraq is only known to have produced liquid bulk anthrax, which has a shelf life of only three years. He said the last known batch of liquid bulk anthrax was produced in 1991 at a state-owned factory blown up in 1996.
"Colin Powell holds up a vial of dry powder anthrax and he makes allusions to the attack in the United States through the letters. That was U.S. government anthrax! It had nothing to do with Iraq," Ritter said.
Ritter accused Powell of engaging in "classic bait-and-switch" in his U.N. presentation, catching his listeners' attention with one piece of information and then putting up an irrelevant photograph "to make them think the two are the same when they're not."
"I mean, the photographs are real but what do the photographs show?" he said. "The Powell presentation is not evidence...It's a very confusing presentation. What does it mean? What does it represent? How does it all link up? It doesn't link up."
"Iraq, anthrax, vial, dry powder - what connection do they have? None," he said.
Ritter termed a "fabrication" Powell's assertion that Iraq may have 18 trucks from which it can produce biological agents such as anthrax or botulinum toxin, and noted that U.N. inspectors who followed up on such U.S. intelligence based on defectors' testimony were only able to find two trucks used for testing food.
"They had nothing to do with biological laboratories. That's what (U.N. chief inspector) Hans Blix says. He says, 'There's no mobile lab."'
"You know who came up with the idea of mobile trucks? The inspectors...We sat back one day and said, 'If we were the Iraqis, how would we hide biological production? We'd put them on trucks,"' Ritter said.
"So we designed it and we went out looking for them. But the problem is, you look for something that you have no evidence exists, but by postulating the existence you create the perception of existence. Now we look for trucks...and we don't find them," he said.
In his presentation, Powell spoke of the futility of trying to find the trucks in question among the thousands that travel Iraqi roads daily without Baghdad voluntarily surrendering the information. Ritter, however, said Powell was merely trying to create an impression that U.N. inspections could never work.
"You can never expect the inspectors to find these 18 trucks," he said, because "these trucks don't exist."
Defectors' reports, he said, could be misleading, especially those coming from people associated with the opposition Iraqi National Congress, who he said could have been "pre-briefed in advance to tell lies."
"Are these legitimate defectors or are they deliberately out there falsifying testimony? I don't know. What I do know is I'm not willing to put American lives on the line based on the testimony from an Iraqi defector. I want something a little bit more solid than that," Ritter said.
But he stressed he is not arguing that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction - merely that the U.N. inspectors should be given sufficient time to do their job in Iraq and make a final determination based on solid evidence. (Kyodo News)
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